Product Review: William Hannah A5 Notebook

After reading Jaclyn’s post a few weeks ago about her customized William Hannah A5 discbound notebook cover (starting at £99), I realized how much I had always wanted one. Compared with other discbound systems, the William Hannah covers are definitely on the luxury end of the spectrum. The covers are leather, with durable metal rings and the option to customize the overall look of the covers, making the higher price seem a little more understandable.

There are two levels of customization: Bespoke/full customization (choosing cover and inside material colors as well as stitching) and partial customization (adding pen loop, £6 upcharge and/or adding a monogram, £10). In either option, the cover comes with 50 sheets of paper that can be lined, dot grid or blank or a combination of all three. There is also an option to choose the color of the lines or dots to coordinate with your covers. There is also an accessory Pen Band (£29) that is a leather sheath on an elastic band that can be wrapped around the cover vertically to keep one pen as well as securing your notebook closed.

The packaging for the William Hannah products is excellent. There is great care taken in the packaging but it’s all paper and paper board so it’s fully recyclable. I ended up keeping the wraps and extra sheets in the packaging as it was beautiful and durable.

There is even a lovely little booklet included about caring for your notebook.

I ordered my cover in Dark Chocolate & Lime with the pen loop.

Look at the delightful pop of lime visible around the edges. If I had custom ordered a cover, I might have changed the stitching to be lime green as well which is why I didn’t really bother with a custom design because Chocolate and Lime are pretty much perfect for me. There are several other leather cover choices (black, whiskey brown, red, deep teal called Agave and a few others) and an assortment of rich suede colors for the inside lining.

The cover is supple. I wouldn’t describe it as stiff or floppy. It’s in the middle. I think the inner lining provides added stability for a soft leather cover.

The pen loop is pretty slender and barely wraps around my Caran d’Ache 849 fountain pen. The loop was definitely designed to hold a standard gel or ballpoint point or even a pencil. If you are inclined to use large diameter fountain pens, I’d skip the pen loop.

The Pen Band, on the other hand was designed to hold a larger pen. However, I discovered that its not too big either. I put my Diplomat Esteem MadC in it and it just barely fits.

Because the MadC has a snap cap, when I was attempting to pull the pen out, I ended up with the cap in my hand and the pen still in the band. Of course, unbeknownst to me, the pen was nib down and I immediately got a stain of orange ink on the beautiful lime lining. You’ve been warned.

Both the front and back insides include a sheet of clear plastic as an overlay to protect both the paper and the cover from rubbing. The front piece is a “my name is” page. The discs are 0.75″ and 303 gauge stainless steel. They are securely attached to the cover with a long rod and the discs are completely enclosed by the leather.

As far as I can discover, the 0.75″ ring is the only option available, even in the Bespoke designed covers.

I chose green dot grid (10 sheets), grey lined (10 sheets) paper and blank (40 sheets).

I’ve been using the blank paper most to do some of my ink sampling. I love blank paper and this paper is aces! I know other people have commented on how durable and fountain pen friendly this paper is but I thought they were just being generous. Nope. It is the BOMB.

Heavy swatches of ink will case the paper to ripple a little but there is no bleed-through. Seriously.

As you can see in the close-up photos, the writing is crisp and the paper has a little texture/tooth. According to William Hannah, the paper is 115gsm and I believe it. It’s definitely hefty.

There are lots of other inserts available including several planner/calendar options. They all appear to use the same 115gsm paper so it will all stand up to liberal applications of fountain pen ink.

I have a disc-style hole punch held over from a previous disc system and it works just fine with the William Hannah notebooks. I’ve cut some other papers down to fit into the cover though I have not actually tested the other papers yet. It’s just nice to know that the hole punch works and I can add other papers, printed or from other sources as needed. However, I now understand why other people loyal order more paper from William Hannah. It’s really nice.

So, between the delicious covers and flexible system, I can definitely see this becoming my notebook of choice.

DISCLAIMER: Some items included in this review were provided free of charge by William Hannah for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

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6 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I’ve been a fan of William Hannah for a number of years (six A5 notebooks in different colours).

    The pen loop can take a Mont Blanc 146 or similar. I find the loop is more responsive to a a tapered end, rather than a blunt end, pen. And after nearly 5 years, the loop is still good, no signs of it giving up.

  2. Will the William Hannah covers work with other disk-bound material? I have a paper punch from one of the other brands, and I can’t tell if the paper would fit on the W/H rings.

    Do like, er, love, the covers and the concept of captured rings.

  3. I know this is an old post, but I am curious and can’t find anything online: What is the writing experience like in regards to the ring section? Is it comparable to Filofax where it’s bothersome and you end up taking out the sheet to write?

    They look so nice, but I don’t want to invest the premium price only to discover I can’t stand the rings >_<

    1. The rings are smaller and a mother than Filofax rings and since there are more of them you hand doesn’t fall in the gap like it does with a standard Filofax.

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